We pick the best 11 players ahead of the showpiece event in the UAE
All eyes will be on the UAE over the next fornight as the country hosts the 14th edition of the Asia Cup.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Afghanistan make up the six teams in the 50-over tournament, which has attracted some of the biggest names in world cricket.
Ahead of the opening game on September 15, we have compiled our best combined 11 for the Asia Cup.
ROHIT SHARMA (INDIA)
Standing in for Virat Kohli, the opening batsman has big shoes to fill during the tournament but he is more than capable of leading from the front. The 31-year-old has established himself as one of the best openers in ODI cricket and comes into the tournament having scored back-to-back centuries against England (one of which was a T20). The right-hander also has a strong history of playing against Asian nations, scoring 264 against Sri Lanka four years ago.
FAKHAR ZAMAN (PAKISTAN)
The 28-year-old is relatively new to the ODI format with just 18 caps to his name, but since the start of 2018, has made a big impact with the bat. It was only two months ago that Zaman stole the headlines when he became the first Pakistani to score a double ODI ton (210no) against Zimbabwe in a tour which also saw him set a new record of fewest innings to reach 1000 runs. If he gets going in the Emirates, he’ll be hard to stop.
BABAR AZAM (PAKISTAN)
The fact that he is currently second in the ODI batting rankings, just shows how far Azam has improved as a batsman. Consistency has been the key for the 23-year-old and while he didn’t have much time at the crease in Zimbabwe due to Zaman’s heroic displays, he did score an unbeaten 106. More importantly, has a proven record when it comes to UAE conditions – having scored five centuries and three fifties.
SHAKIB AL HASAN (BANGLADESH)
There are question marks of how fit the 31-year-old really is after a finger injury resurfaced during the West Indies tour. But even if he is ’60 or 70 per cent’ fit, Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes expects him to be a threat. That tells you everything on the importance of Shakib. Has established himself as one of the best all-rounders in the game, topping the world rankings, and more often than not, has produced match-winning performances.
ANGELO MATHEWS (SRI LANKA)
His selection may raise a few eyebrows but the 31-year-old arrives in the UAE as one of Sri Lanka’s in-form players. Was the highest run-scorer in the recent South Africa series, hitting unbeaten 79 and 97-run knocks. Has delivered under pressure to get his team out of trouble while he can also be dangerous with the ball.
MS DHONI (INDIA)
If reports are to be believed that the 2019 World Cup will be the final tournament for Dhoni, then this year’s Asia Cup looks to be his last. His record alone speaks volumes of how effective the wicket-keeper batsman is and although his last half-century (65) came against Sri Lanka in December, he has shown numerous times that he can read the game brilliantly, not to mention he can deliver with the bat in style.
HARDIK PANDYA (INDIA)
The 24-year-old will not have much time to rest following his participation in the England Test series but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern. The all-rounder has established himself as a key member of the Indian squad, making valuable contributions with the bat and ball since making his ODI debut in 2016. His bowling continues to improve while he can also score crucial runs.
RASHID KHAN (AFGHANISTAN)
There’s a reason why he’s the second best bowler in ODI cricket. The 19-year-old spinner has been a revelation since he made his international debut in 2015, picking up wickets wherever he plays. Arrives in the UAE on the back of an impressive showing against Ireland where he took eight wickets and expect him to add to his tally during the tournament.
MOHAMMAD AMIR (PAKISTAN)
The 26-year-old has only claimed three scalps since the start of 2018 with those coming against New Zealand and Zimbabwe. That shouldn’t fool you given the last time he played in a major tournament – ICC Champions Trophy – he caused havoc with the ball. Just ask India when they lost the final by 180 runs. His ability to swing the ball both ways is something the batsmen will have to be wary of.
JASPRIT BUMRAH (INDIA)
The 24-year-old has proved to be a real gem for Team India after producing many match-winning moments in his short ODI career so far. Bowling pinpoint yorkers, he has made a name for himself as one of cricket’s best death bowlers. The Indian pacer has all the ingredients to wow the UAE fans.
KULDEEP YADAV (INDIA)
It didn’t work out during the England Test series but there’s no doubting his record when it comes to the white-ball. The 23-year-old spinner has been a revelation for India since he was given his debut and his nine wickets in the three-match England ODI series was another example of his bowling brilliance. Most of the Asian sides will be playing against him for the first time but will be fully aware of the threat he poses.